I’ve long since believed that ABC’s “The Bachelor” and all of its subsequent spin-offs were a hot mess. The idea of scads of women competing for the attention and affections of just one man or woman sounds like drama of the highest degree. And if you’ve watched even a second of the show, then you know it’s a hot mess every single season.
Inevitably, women hoping to be chosen devolve into very unhealthy competition. Feelings are hurt. Tears are shed and at the end of it all, one lucky woman walks away with a ring. Most of the seasons play out like every other.
But this time, the bachelor is a Black man.
And race always adds a couple of additional layers of complication to any situation.
As much as I would have liked to avoid watching this season, I’m at home with my parents for the holidays and my mother was adamant about watching. In the name of nosiness and bonding, I watched along with her. My mom was pretty taken with Matt. She was particularly impressed that he opened the episode with a prayer.
I’m still reserving judgement.
Still, my mom, my sister, and myself all ended the episode with a single question.
Will Matt choose a Black woman to marry?
If he doesn’t, it won’t be because there were a lot of options. More than I’ve ever seen before, there was more than a sprinkling of Black women to choose from. And while I’ll always admit my bias, they were all gorgeous. Many were accomplished, poised and didn’t come in on the first night with any embarrassing gimmicks.
But just because Matt has options when it comes to Black women—I don’t know if we should hold out any type of hope.
He’s the first so there is no blue print. Before him though, there were two Black bachelorettes, Rachel Lindsay (now Abasolo) and Tayshia Adams. Each of them chose white or white passing men to spend the rest of their lives with.
But James has already spoken about the unique set of pressures he faces as a Black man in this position.
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, James said, “I felt a lot, I’m not going to lie. But the more conversations I had with Chris [Harrison] — he helped me realize that I only speak for myself, and my experience was my own, and when someone has an opinion, whether they’re white or Black, that’s their opinion. It doesn’t mean that all Black or white people think that way. I think I did a great job representing how I was raised and where I come from and what I’m looking for, and I hope people see that too.”
I get it. There are a lot of hopes being heaped on Matt as the first man to represent the Black community on this national platform.
And to be clear, Matt’s Blackness is a bit different. He is biracial but identifies as Black. Still, he was raised by a single white mother. And with his Black father being largely absent, it will be interesting to see how Matt handles certain emotions about not only his racial identity but his family dynamic.
From the sounds of his interview with Variety, they just might go there.
“There were a lot of conversations that I had, that I needed to have that I hadn’t had and I wasn’t planning on having,” he confessed. “But that’s where this whole experience took me, and I’m so fortunate for it. I grew up as a man. It allowed me to be vulnerable for these women, so I could experience what I experienced.”
Maybe some therapy would have done Matt some good before he began looking for a wife in this very unorthodox way. But here we are.
James shared that he hopes his time on “The Bachelor” helps to normalize conversations around interracial relationships.
“If people weren’t open to biracial relationships, I wouldn’t be here. So, my stance on that is different and my life experience is different because I’m the product of that, and I look at it differently than someone who’s never been in that type of relationship. I get it if someone is uncomfortable having that type of conversation, and I don’t hold it against them. I want to have it so that we can normalize that type of thing, and hopefully throughout this experience for me, it becomes something that people are more open to and it does normalize it.”
I’d argue that there’s been plenty of representation and even conversation about interracial relationships. But perhaps, being biracial himself, Matt will present an entirely new perspective.